Press conference met protest in front of Hodgin Hall Wednesday when a speaker posed the question, “If you knew that women were hurt by abortion, would you rethink your opinion?”

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, was joined at UNM Wednesday morning by congressman Steve Pearce, R-NM, and other New Mexico representatives to host a press conference addressing criminal referrals for UNM Hospital and local abortion clinic Southwestern Women’s Options.

“Various concerns of ethical and legal violations have been discovered at the University of New Mexico, and to this day no action has been taken,” said Dan Rosecrans of the Coalition for Life of New Mexico, addressing the audience over protesters screaming “lies” and “we trust providers.”

As chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Blackburn discussed the findings of the panel, which indicated that local abortion clinic Southwestern Women’s Options had violated several state and federal laws.

“We looked at four specific areas that needed to have a deeper dive,” she said. “Number one: the laws protecting human research subjects and patient privacy. Two: laws regulating anatomical gifts for transplantation therapy, research and education. Three: laws protecting late-term and born alive infants. And four: laws pertaining to funding for fetal tissue research and abortion providers.”

Blackburn referenced the New Mexico Spradling Act, which states any form of monetary exchange for anatomical gifts — in this case, aborted fetal tissue — is a federal violation.

“Any penny, even one penny, of profit is a felony offense,” she said.

Last month, the Daily Lobo reported on the issue of fetal tissue usage at UNMH.

During the Lobo’s investigation into the legality of the process, specifically focusing on monetary rewards, SWWO told us “Southwestern Women’s Options does not recoup expenses associated with tissue donation or receive any monetary or other compensation in exchange for facilitating tissue donations.”

Referencing a testimony given to the select panel, New Mexico Republican Rep. Rod Montoya claimed OBGYN staff at UNMH had no training when it came to treating a born alive aborted fetus, which, Montoya said, makes UNM look bad.

“The University of New Mexico likes to refer to itself as our flagship university,” he said. “I stand here today, disappointed in this flagship institution. We will be calling on (New Mexico Attorney General) Hector Balderas and others in the state government to look into this.”

Republican State Rep. Yvette Herrell stated, in agreement with Montoya, that “what’s at stake here is the integrity of New Mexico.”

“The decisions made here at this University are going to be shown throughout the state and throughout the nation,” Herrell said. “Make no mistake that other states, other universities, other people are watching to see how UNM reacts. I’m telling you, this is about the integrity from within this University — that is what’s going to be shown on the outside of this University.”

Pearce expressed concerns that the University was changing family relationships by partnering with SWWO on the research.

“UNM has converted the mother-child relationship into a profit center,” Pearce said. “I feel bad for the University.”

Regional coordinator of Students for Life of America Bethany Janzen, who was invited to speak at the conference, said UNM and SWWO had acted illegally, but Janzen approached the discussion with a compromise.

“UNM and Southwestern Women’s Options have violated the law, they have violated women’s rights, they have violated transparency, they have violated accountability and they have betrayed women,” she said. “We all want informed consent, because abortion betrays women when women do not have proper information.”

Although protesters yelled over the voices of speakers, and speakers tried to push back the protesters, everyone agreed that the issue at hand had a wide reach in terms of who it affects.

“This issue affects thousands of New Mexico women both pro-choice, pro-life and across the spectrum, thousands of New Mexico families, and thousands of New Mexico children,” said Elisa Martinez of New Mexico Alliance for Life.

“If you stand for women, then I challenge you to stand with us today. Get the facts and stop the rhetoric,” Martinez said. “Stand with New Mexico women, demand justice and demand action today.”

Celia Raney is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.